We Won’t Back Down: Severita Lara’s Rise from Student Leader to Mayor
An enlightening biography for young adults about a little-known female activist in the Hispanic Civil Rights Movement.
by José Angel Gutiérrez
Publication Date: November 30, 2005
Format: Trade Paperback
Imprint: Piñata Books
On December 9, 1969, change was in the air. The small town of Crystal City, Texas would never be the same. After weeks of petitioning for a hearing with the Crystal City school board, students of Crystal City High and their parents descended on the superintendent’s office. The students had been threatened with suspension and even physical violence. Powerful members of the community had insisted they would fire the parents of students if they went in front of the school board, and still, they came. Finally, the school board removed the chairs in the gallery, and the parents and students stood until members of the school board fled to avoid the confrontation. As the students and their parents stood in front of the building, a cry rose from the crowd. “Walk out. Walk out.”
So began the Crystal City High student walk out. At the center of the fervor was Severita Lara. Called la cabezuda, or stubborn girl, by her mother, Lara bore the mark of a leader from an early age. She was not afraid to stand up to anyone: girls or boys, teachers or superintendents. She always followed her father’s advice, “If you know it’s right, do it.”
José Angel Gutiérrez, the famous civil rights leader, chronicle’s Lara’s ascent from a willful child to the mayor of Crystal City. From her father’s doting support to her mother’s steel-rod discipline, Gutiérrez offers a detailed portrait of the early family life of the woman whose continuing struggle against segregation and discrimination began while she was still a high school student in Crystal City. He also follows her attempts as a single mother to achieve her dream of being a doctor and providing for her sons.
This is the story of la cabezuda, Severita Lara, who has made an indelible imprint on American history.
JOSÉ ANGEL GUTIÉRREZ is the author of a memoir for young adults The Making of a Civil Rights Leader: José Angel Gutiérrez (Piñata Books, 2005); two works of social commentary, A Chicano Manual on How to Handle Gringos (Arte Público Press, 2003) and A Gringo Manual on How to Handle Mexicans (Arte Público Press, 1998); and a memoir for adults, The Making of a Chicano Militant (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998). He is the editor and translator of Reies López Tijerina’s autobiography, They Called Me King Tiger (Arte Público Press, 2000). The founder and former director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, he is a professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He also practices law in Dallas, Texas, where he lives with his family.
ATOS Interest Level: Upper Grades
Category: Young Adult